One viral post on Twitter, which was retweeted over 2,000 times and got 4,700 likes, claims that Greta Thunberg, known for her environmental activism in the face of the climate crisis, “is now calling for the use of nuclear power plants”, when she was supposedly the one who “destroyed the German energy system by calling for their shutdown”.
This claim is MISLEADING. In the video that accompanies the tweet’s message, Greta Thunberg admits that it would be a bad idea for Germany to close its remaining active nuclear power plants if it means focusing exclusively on coal-fired power. In other words, she is not calling for the use of nuclear energy in general, but is suggesting that using nuclear power is better than using coal-fired power, the latter of which has a higher carbon footprint than both renewable and nuclear energies.
Greta Thunberg, the same person who destroyed the German energy system by calling on the country to shut down its nuclear power plants, increasing energy costs by 5000%, is now calling for the use of nuclear power plants.
In an interview on the German news programme Tagesschau on 12 October of this year, environmental activist Greta Thunberg stated that “if (the nuclear plants) are already running, I feel that it’s a mistake to close them down in order to focus on coal”. One viral tweet shared this snippet from the interview, claiming that the Swedish activist is “now calling for the use of nuclear power plants”. However, Thunberg does not explicitly call for that at any point in the interview.
When the interviewer asks her whether “nuclear power plants are the better choice for the climate issue”, the Swedish activists replies that it “depends on if [these plants] are already running”. Thunberg believes that, if they are, “it would be a mistake” to close them down – as the German government is planning to do in April 2023 – if it means “focusing on coal”.
Germany’s nuclear shutdown
Contrary to the claim in the viral tweet, Greta Thunberg is not responsible for “destroying the German energy system by calling for the shutdown of nuclear power plants”.
Germany’s decision to close its nuclear power plants dates back to 1998, five years before the activist was born, when the government at the time had, among its priorities, the goal of gradually phasing out nuclear power. This process was interrupted in 2009 with the new government, but resumed again in 2011 after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Therefore, Greta Thunberg, who was born in 2003, could not have had any influence on the events that led to the disuse of Germany’s nuclear power plants.
Of the 17 reactors that were active in 2010, 10 closed between 2011 and 2017: before Thunberg began her climate activism in 2018.
The energy crisis in Germany
The interview with Greta Thunberg comes in the wake of the current energy crisis in Europe, which has seen Germany reactivate idle coal power plants, despite the fact that its current government has insisted that it will stop using them in 2030 in order to comply with the EU’s Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) on annual greenhouse gas emission reductions. Furthermore, Germany has extended until April 2023 the lifespan of three of the nuclear reactors that are still in service and were scheduled to be shut down at the end of this year.
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